Underscoring the Importance of Interfaith Efforts

On February 8, DMARC’s Coordinator of Interfaith Engagement and state senator, Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott, shared a prayer in the Iowa Senate written by a young Muslim woman who was a previous participant of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp, a week-long event DMARC co-hosts every summer with the Comparison Project at Drake University.

Unfortunately, the response to this prayer has not all been positive. It seems some people in our state still react with anger and fear when they come in contact with a faith that is not their own.

The negative responses to this prayer underscore the importance of our interfaith efforts. At DMARC, we believe that everyone in our community should be treated with respect and dignity, no matter their personal faith. Religious diversity is something to be celebrated – not just our differences, but also those beliefs that unite us across the religious spectrum.

We work with over 200 faith groups and congregations from across the religious spectrum to meet basic human needs in our community, because we know we can all do more together than we each could on our own. In addition to the annual Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp, DMARC hosts interfaith dialogue, forums, and open houses at faith communities, and other events to build interfaith connections and relationships.

It is important we all remember not to leave religious diversity out of equity and inclusion efforts. In recent years, both in Iowa and across the nation, we have witnessed hateful rhetoric and violence directed toward Muslims, Jews, and other religious communities. We’ve seen the vandalism and arson of sacred spaces, threatening letters and online messages sent to faith communities, people targeted by hate crimes, and sadly, even mass murder committed on the basis of religion.

Every one of these tragedies is a reminder of the importance of interfaith dialogue and relationships. These hateful actions are largely driven by a lack of understanding. Each of us has a story of our personal faith to share, even those of us who don’t consider ourselves “religious,” and can build interfaith relationships with our neighbors, colleagues, and other people in our community, whether they’re a complete stranger or someone we know and interact with everyday.

One of our favorite parts of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp comes at the end of the week, when we host a screening for students to share the digital storytelling projects they have been working on. We are always so impressed at the insight and inspiration the students’ stories of personal faith provide. We encourage you to visit iowainterfaithexchange.com and watch some of these stories to learn more about religious diversity in our community and how these students live out their faiths everyday.

Religious diversity is a strength of our community, not a weakness. We can accomplish great things when we come together, but hatred and fear will only further divide us.

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